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Woven textile

  • Place of origin:

    Moscow (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870-1872 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sapognikoff, A & V (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woven in metal thread and polychrome silk

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The brothers Alexander and Vladimir Sapognikoff or Sapozhnikovy were descendents of an ancient Russian merchant dynasty which founded a textile firm in 1836 in Moscow. Gold and silver textiles produced there won grand-prix and gold medals several times at international and World exhibitions in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In 1852 Sapognikoff became official suppliers of the Russian Imperial court, their textiles being used for upholstery, window curtains and draperies in Imperial palaces and in the mansions of the Russian aristocracy. They also supplied the army with flags and standards, the Russian clergy with fabric for vestments, and the court with ceremonial garments.

Sapognikoff silks and gold brocades were well known for elaborate patterns, vibrant colours and superior quality. Given its Greek cross pattern, this piece was probably woven for use in an ecclesiastical vestment, perhaps as a phelonion, worn by a priest of the Eastern Christian tradition. It is worn over the priest's other vestments and is the same as the chasuble of Western Christianity.

Physical description

Brocade woven with silver and three different qualities of gold thread, pink, purple and dark blue and two shades of green. Colours on back show how badly faded the pink and purple are. The pattern comprises geometric shapes (circles, crosses), roundels with Greek crosses, alternating with small roundels with a device, and with Latin crosses. A yellow satin band at the top and the bottom has woven lettering in brown with the name of the company and the symbols of the double-headed and single-headed eagle.

Place of Origin

Moscow (made)


ca. 1870-1872 (made)


Sapognikoff, A & V (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Woven in metal thread and polychrome silk

Marks and inscriptions

A&V Sapognikoff (A&V Sapozhnikovy)
Woven into band along top in Russian.


Length: 3.5 ft, Width: 2.5 ft

Historical context note

There are alternative transliterations of the name of the firm: Sapozhnikovy versus Sapognikoffs and what is in our original accession register, Saposnikoff.

Up until the revolution of 1917, Sapognikoffs' textile factory (former "Peredovaya Tekstilshina", now Bolshevo) was Russia's most famous textile factory. Sapognikoff silks and gold brocades were well known for elaborate patterns, vibrant colours and superior quality. The firm won grand-prix and gold medals several times at international and World exhibitions in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.

Sapognikoff brothers were considered the best silk manufacturers in Russia. In 1852 they became official suppliers of the Imperial court, their textiles being used for upholstery, window curtains and draperies in Imperial palaces and in the mansions of the Russian aristocracy. They also supplied the army with flags and standards, the Russian clergy with fabric for vestments and the court with ceremonial garments.

The Sapognikoff brothers were descendents of an ancient Russian merchant dynasty. Grigoriy Grigor’evich Sapognikoff founded the famous textile firm, buying a factory in 1836, located in NovoBasmannaya street, near Red Gates. In 1843, only 5 years after opening, he displayed patterned satin textiles at a Russian exhibition. Gold and silver embroidered textiles, produced at the Sapognikoff factory, won first prize at the exhibition in 1849. After the death of its founder, the factory passed to his wife Vera Vladimirovna, and sons, Alexander and Vladimir, who founded “A.&V. Sapognikoff”.

Manufacturing volumes increased in 1875 when the brothers moved part of their factory from Moscow to Moscow Uyezd. In 1869, they bought a small cloth factory in Maksimkovo village and a wool factory in Kurakino village, in 1875. These factories were considered not profitable. The decision to move the factory to Uezd was made by Sapognikoff brothers after it was severely damaged in fire. This accident also made them consider improvements in health and safety conditions on their premises.

In 1877, Alexander (the older brother) died, leaving Vladimir Grigor’evich in charge of the family business. He realized that it was his chance to introduce a series of radical innovations. The most crucial one was moving all the stages of the production cycle under one roof. The most technologically challenging tasks, such as, combing and spinning silk, degumming and dyeing were traditionally performed by third-party sub-contractor workshops. By performing these tasks in-house, Valdimir Sapognikoff gained direct control over the production process and the quality of the textiles, and increased factory efficiency. The weaving department was equipped with 60 hand-operated brocade looms, as well as 250 fully mechanical jacquard looms. Jacquard looms had first been brought to Russia from France in 1882.

The range of textiles, produced at Kurakino factory was wide. The most exotic types of silk fabrics, as well as, more common crêpe de chine, poplin, taffeta, satin-vellore and marquisette were mentioned in factory weavers’ books. The most common motifs of Sapognikoff’s brocades featured leaves, forgive-me-nots, roses, circles, crosses and trees. Traditional elements of brocade design were often combined into more complex sets, which were given names in the factory weavers’ books. For example, the “lady” brocade was decorated with grass, palm leaves, azalea, bindweed, tulips, dahlias, mayweeds, cornflowers, bellflowers and long branches. Weavers’ books from Sapognikoff factory always featured textile swatches next to their descriptions. The books are kept in Moscow Central Historical Archive. The colours of the textile swatches are still vibrant.

The majority of orders were came from Tula, Vladivostok, Kharkov, Baku, Kiev, Riga, Tashkent, Rostov-na-Donu, Petrograd and Warsaw. “Mure and Marilee’s” (spelling in English is unclear - now named Central Department Store or TSUM), a large department store in Moscow, regularly placed orders. By 1912, the factory at Kurakino employed 730 workers, and was equipped with steam-, oil-, gasoline-, and water-power machinery, with total power of over 247 horsepower. The same year, the Sapognikoff factory in Moscow employed 203 workers and was equipped by 1 steam- and 1 water-powered generator with the total power about 53 horsepower. Moscow factory produced only special orders which often included elaborate artwork.

In February 1912, “A.&V. Sapognikoff” firm became a joint-stock company. Grigoriy Vladimirovitch Sapognikoff (son of Vladimir Grigor’evich) was made the head of the company.

It is important to mention that Vladimir Grigor’evich Sapognikoff was the person who established the most successful textile factory in the history of Russia. As the majority of merchants of that time, he received home education, which was fairly limited. He was actively involved in social activities and charity. He also was the chairman of Moscow Merchant Society for several years in a row, chairman of Moscow Stock Committee Council; the member of Council of Manufacture and Trade; he also represented merchants in Moscow City Council and was the chairman or the member of curatorial councils of various education institutions, such as, The Stroganoff college of arts, Alexandroff college of commerce, college of commerce for women and practical academy of commercial sciences. V.G. Sapognikoff was given hereditary nobility for his contribution to development of Russian silk industry, and was became Manufacture Counsellor. In 1910 he became the State Counsellor.

V.G. Sapognikoff’s innovative manufacturing techniques contributed also to further development of distinctive style in Russian textiles. His firm annually donated prize money for contests held at Stroganoff college of arts. Sapognikoff’s enthusiasm was well paid out. His factory became extremely competitive and well known abroad. “A.&V. Sapognikoff” firm received 6 grand-prix and 5 gold medals at 11 international exhibitions. The firm also took part in the variety of National exhibitions, and thus earned permission to use Russian coat of arms on their textiles.

However, working and living conditions for factory workers were fairly poor. According to a 1912 report, single male and female workers were given a small ‘bed sits’ in the halls. Families lived in slightly larger rooms, which were separated from each other with thin low separators, and shared facilities and communal areas. At the same time the conditions, which Sapognikoff factory provided for its workers, were far better than what the majority of workers in Russia dealt with. Female and male workers’ blocks both featured several kitchens and a canteen. There was also a primary school for children aged 10-14, who worked at the factory. For underage workers, work at the factory started at 6 a.m. and continued till 9.30, when they had a 30 minutes breakfast break. Classes at school continued from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. followed by 1 hour lunch break, after which work continued from 5.30 p.m till 8 p.m.

Sapognikoff textiles were exhibited in 1993 at the Russian textiles of the 18th-19th century exhibition of held in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.

(Sources consulted by Alexey Unku in 2005: www.gorodkorolev.ru/articles.php?pid=1549 (Korolev town official website)
www.zhuk.net/Archive/articles.asp?aid=7996 (Company Management Magazine on line
See, too, for examples of their products used in court, ecclesiastical and fancy dress: S. Amelekhina et al. Magnificence of the Tsars. Ceremonial Men's Dress from the Russian Imperial Court, 1721-1917, V&A Publishing, London, 2008, pp. 40-41, 44-45, & 103.)

Descriptive line

Woven textile, in metal thread and polychrome silk, by A & V Sapognikoff, Moscow, ca. 1870-1872

Production Note

Attribution note: Probably made to commission for the Church.


Silk; Metal


Weaving; Brocading

Subjects depicted

Roundels; Latin crosses; Greek crosses


Textiles; Religion; Ecclesiastical textiles; Christianity


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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